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A Parable for Cancun

In the most remote regions of Brazil, slave labor is employed to cut down grand swaths of the precious rain forest to make room to grow eucalyptus which is then burned by male slaves (who exploit the body, mind, and spirit of female slaves forced into prostitution) to make charcoal for the steel mills of Brazil where the poorest of the poor toil for wages that do not sustain them so that steel can be shipped to a General Motors plant in Mexico (GM is now the largest employer south of the border) where the poorest of the poor endure maquiladora conditions so these automobile parts can then be shipped to a GM plant in the U.S. (roughly 50 percent of what is termed “trade” consists of business transactions between branches of the same transnational corporation) where even the poorest of the poor proudly take on imposing debt to possess a car “made in the U.S.A.” so they can clog the highways that were paved over inestimable eco-systems, filling the air with noxious pollution as they make their way to the drive-through window of an anti-union fast food restaurant that purchased the beef of slaughtered cattle that once grazed on land cleared by male slaves who exploit the body, mind, and spirit of female slaves in the most remote regions of Brazil…

A September 10, 2003 New York Times editorial (“Showdown in Cancun”) saw it differently. “The protesters will be trying to be as colorful and disruptive as they were when the W.T.O. met in Seattle in 1999, but their role is marginal,” the Times declared, before adding: “Few things could improve the lives of more people – including the more than one billion struggling to live on a dollar a day or less – than a positive outcome in Cancún. By that we mean a strong W.T.O. commitment to create a fair and efficient global market for agricultural goods.”

While the corporate media obscures the issues at hand and trains its focus on the battle between Dubya and Osama/Saddam, the primary conflict on the planet remains unchanged: globalization from above vs. globalization from below.

The Times’ prose challenges activists to call globalization what it really is. The WTO, World Bank, IMF, and transnational corporations are really the elements of a mutant form of remote control imperialism. The United States doesn’t have to send armies into other countries. It sends in Disney and McDonalds with the (usually) unspoken threat of military force backing them up. “Imperialism” is a word many of today’s activists shy away from, but it has more power than we think. By using the enemy’s term (globalzation), we allow them to define it-and us.

Globalization is not inherently a bad idea. It’s imperialism that the protestors are against. Globalization is something most people in the streets of Cancun are actually for. Mutually beneficial global ties are essential. As Michael Albert of Z Magazine has articulated, the goal is to globalize equity not poverty, solidarity not anti-sociality, diversity not conformity, democracy not subordination, and ecological balance not suicidal rapaciousness.

Or, as Arundhati Roy explains: “In the present circumstances, I’d say that the only thing worth globalizing is dissent.”

MICKEY Z. can be reached at mzx2@earthlink.net.

 

 

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Mickey Z. is the author of 12 books, most recently Occupy this Book: Mickey Z. on Activism. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on the Web here. Anyone wishing to support his activist efforts can do so by making a donation here. This piece first appeared at World Trust News.  

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